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   Re: Syntax and semantics

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  • From: John Robert Gardner <jrgardn@emory.edu>
  • To: xml-dev@xml.org
  • Date: Thu, 18 May 2000 22:55:45 -0400 (EDT)


I hope, upon reading your post, that we are in agreement . . . the context
of saying "not" by saying, as it were, anything is a shared meaning which
is always presupposed in communication.  Cf. Heidigger's "befindlichkeit"
-- throwness -- we find ourselves always already in the world in a state
of being pre-supposed _by_ the meaning-world in which we come to
articulate ourselves. It was Husserl before him, with phenomenology, that
built the conceptual groundwork of inseparability between syntax and
semantics (among, of course, other things) . . . followed therefrom by G.
Van Der Leeuw (no there was _not_ a methodological lapse since Plato . . .).

To digress . . . 

"Not" is, thus the most subtle of concepts and, in isolation, most
syntactically evocative of meaning (Nagarjuna's Madhyamika "the middle
way" gave rise to the philosophical potency of the Buddhism we all most
commonly recognize, Mahayana, by recognizing the potency of
meaning--semantics--inherent in the syntax of opposition . . . from
Sanskrit "medha" -- "sea" that which comprises, and intersects, both/all,
the suffix ika is lit. "most": madhyamika: that which is the most
middle/most both).

Yipes, this is thoroughly abstract . . . but left at only "not" or "not
not-ted" is, --if I read you right-- autistic in the sense I think you
mean.  My whole gist in these posts is to call attention to what is being
said/assumend with semantics qua semantics . . . that syntax is somehow
separable therefrom (more rightly, vice versa). Both "semantics" and
"syntax" live more happily as siblings to the parent node "meaning," than
juxtaposed, as some have implied . . . pun intended . . . in separate
conceptual namespaces.

I hesitate at this hour to try and come back to . . where was it? . . .we
started.  As I've tried to say in all these posts, if "semantics" and
"syntax" are to be deployed with rhetorical weight, we are getting at a
similar subtlety of 2 years ago with links (are they content or
behavior?): the artificial/assumed distinction between the two does not
afford a clear enough distinction upon which to ground the revision, or
proposed revision, of a spec or programming procedure in the digital world
wherein such gray areas and hazy distinctions can only ultimately devolve
into late-night abstraction.


John Robert Gardner, Ph.D.
XML Engineer
Emory University
"If there is something you're thinking of doing, or wish you could do,
begin it.  In boldness there is mystery and power . . . . "  -Goethe

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